Hidden London underground tours
The Hidden London underground tours reveal another side to the world’s oldest subterranean railway. Organised by the London Transport Museum, you’ll find out which ones have been used as film sets, hotel accommodation and lots more besides. Take your pick from these options.
Piccadilly Circus Station
‘Piccadilly Circus: The Heart of London’ is the newest tour. Designed by Charles Holden, the Grade II-listed building opened in 1906, before closing in 1925 and reopening in 1928. It closed because passenger numbers grew from 1.5 million in 1906 to 18 million in 1922, causing overcrowding. To put that in perspective, the station now serves 40 million passengers annually. A guide will show you around disused platforms, secret doors and lift shafts which are off-limits to the public. You’ll also see original Edwardian designs and hear how the station once stored 200 artefacts from the Tate collection and Museum of London.
If you’d rather join one of the programme’s original Hidden London underground tours, then stand on deserted platforms and see original ticket halls and lifts at Aldwych Station. It opened in 1907 and was used as an air raid shelter during The Blitz. The station was underused, so it closed in 1994. It’s now used for film and TV shoots, so you’ll recognise it from Atonement (2007), Mr Selfridge (2013), Sherlock (2014) or war drama Darkest Hour (2017). The tour includes a glass of Champagne, popcorn and a screening of Darkest Hour in the museum’s Cubic Theatre.
Down Street Station
Churchill fans won’t want to miss the tour of Down Street Station, between Hyde Park Corner and Green Park, which was only open to the public from 1907 to 1932. This is the site of the real Railway Executive Committee headquarters, which controlled British railways during both World Wars. As you explore the bunker’s tunnels, imagine Churchill plotting over maps.
Charing Cross Station
The ‘Charing Cross: Access All Areas’ tour allows you to walk under Trafalgar Square and access areas closed to the public since 1999. For example, the Jubilee Line platforms are now used for shoots such as Skyfall (2012), Paddington Bear (2013) and 24 (2014). One of the best things about the Hidden London underground tours is recognising a station you’ve seen in a blockbuster.
Clapham South Station
Clapham South opened to the public in 1944. It has over a mile of passageways and tours include a 30-minute screening about people who sheltered here from Nazi bombs. In 1948, it was also used to house over 200 Caribbean migrants who arrived in Britain on SS Empire Windrush. Journey 180 steps underground to explore the shelter, which was one of eight across London. The others are at Clapham North, Clapham Common, Stockwell, Chancery Lane, Belsize Park, Camden Town and Goodge Street. In 1951, the tunnels became a shelter again, this time as a cheap hotel for people attending the Festival of Britain.
Staying in Euston? Then explore the station beneath your hotel, which is used by 42 million passengers each year. As you explore disused passageways and tunnels you’ll browse a gallery of vintage advertising poster fragments, concealed for 50 years. You can also learn about the station’s future as it is transformed for HS2, a high-speed rail line connecting London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
If you’re interested in art and design, then tour 55 Broadway, a Grade I-listed tower which was London’s tallest in 1929. On this tour by St James’s Station, you can access London Underground’s former headquarters. The 14th floor (accessed by steps and a lift) is home to Art Deco offices, meeting rooms and rooftop views. Explore 10 modernist sculptures, including Henry Moore’s first public commission, West Wind and Jacob Epstein’s controversial figures, Night and Day.
‘Highgate: Wilderness Walkabout‘ meanwhile is all above ground – and requires a hard hat. The station was intended to be a busy interchange as part of a Northern Heights line. It was redeveloped with Charles Holden architecture in 1940 and the area is now home to a protected species of bat.
Find out more about London Transport Museum’s Hidden London underground tours at www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/hidden-london